But before the genesis of The Servant, as a teenager, and in my early twenties, I tried to make account of myself in other ways. Having left home for university, I thought I could free myself from my tedious past and personality. I made false, boastful claims about myself. I hoped to construct a character that would impress and entertain my friends. It was an act or a mask, a pretence at having depth. To gain attention, I claimed that I was able to do things that I could not do very well. I claimed I’d had experiences that I had not had, exactly. I claimed to be messed up from the troubles I’d heroically endured, and it turned out I was messed up (who isn’t?) but not from the troubles I professed. In fact, the few small troubles I did have I dealt with extremely badly, as this outbreak of mendacity demonstrates.
It was only, years later, in therapy, that I wondered what was so wrong with my own self that I felt compelled to invent another.
I have still not found an adequate answer to this. When I claimed to have thoughts, feelings and opinions that had only just occurred to me, and that I only said for effect, I was using language as a medium of communication, but not as a receptacle of truth, not as a way of capturing that elusive quality, which is surely language in its highest form. So what was I trying to communicate?
I was being dishonest and thus disloyal to both my friends and to myself. I was communicating nothing. I was making no real connections. I was, in fact, isolating myself. This made worse the sense of hollowness and of worthlessness.
I began to loath myself for being such a twat. Filled with embarrassment, I wanted to stifle my foolish ego-centricity and dedicate myself to being interested in other people. I wanted to make amends.
But it didn’t quite work out like that.